Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate Law

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For the tax year 2011, the county assessor decided to assess property taxes on parcel of land owned by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (Central) but leased to private parties. Central protested the tax assessment, and the Board of Equalization recommended not taxing the land. The Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) affirmed, concluding that the parcels should not be taxed because Central had already made a payment in lieu of tax pursuant to Neb. Const. art. VIII, 11 for the relevant tax year. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed TERC’s finding that Central was not subject to property taxes for tax year 2011 because it had already made a payment in lieu of tax for that year; but (2) vacated the portion of TERC’s order that could be interpreted to mean that a lessee’s property tax obligation is included in Central’s payment in lieu of tax, as the issue of a lessee’s liability was not before TERC. View "Conroy v. Keith County Bd. of Equalization" on Justia Law

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Through its power of eminent domain, the State of Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) took real property owned by Leo and Joanna Hike for a highway project. The parties were unable to agree on compensation, and the case proceeded to trial for a determination of damages. The principal issue disputed at trial was the fair market value of the Hikes’ property immediately prior to the taking, which depended on whether the property’s highest and best use at the time was residential or commercial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Hikes for $53,209, which suggested that the jury agreed with NDOR that the property must be valued as residential property. The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict, holding (1) the district court did not commit prejudicial error with respect to the evidentiary issues raised by the Hikes; (2) the district court did not err in instructing the jury; and (3) the prosecutor made an improper comment during closing argument, but the comment did not prevent a fair verdict. View "Hike v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, including Lyle Sukup and Kristen Sukup, seeking payment for a boundary fence he built between his property and the property in which Defendants had an interest. Specifically, Defendant alleged that he had an agreement with the Sukups to build the fence between his property and the Sukups’ property and that the Sukups agreed to share equally in the cost. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that Plaintiff's cause of action arose under Nebraska's "fence law" and that the county courts had exclusive jurisdiction over fence contribution cases. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s complaint was not simply an action for contribution but was also a common-law contract action that was subject to the district court’s jurisdiction. View "Kotrous v. Zerbe" on Justia Law

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The City of Fremont paved on block of a street and assessed the paving costs against abutting property owners. The City relied on Nebraska’s “gap and extend” law, which permits a city to “pave any unpaved street…which intersects a paved street for a distance of not to exceed one block on either side of such paved street” to authorize the paving. Appellees, legal titleholders of property that abutted upon and was adjacent to the street, filed a petition on appeal, alleging that the levy of special assessments was invalid. The district court sustained Appellees’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the City did not comport with the limitations and restrictions required by the gap and extend law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plan language of the statute authorized the paving. Remanded with direction to enter judgment in favor of the City.View "Johnson v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, property owners, filed a quiet title action against owners of adjacent lots, seeking a declaration that express easements granted in favor of the adjacent lots were invalid. The defendants filed counterclaims asserting that the express easements were valid. Plaintiffs submitted to Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company ("Commonwealth") a claim for defense pursuant to a policy of title insurance issued by Commonwealth insuring Plaintiffs’ property, but Commonwealth denied the claim. In the quiet title action, the district court extinguished the express easements and denied the counterclaims but concluded that the defendants possessed implied easements. While the quiet title action was pending, Plaintiffs filed the instant action against Commonwealth, seeking a determination that Commonwealth breached its duty under the policy by refusing to provide a defense to the counterclaims. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Commonwealth. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in sustaining Commonwealth’s motion for summary judgment because Commonwealth did not violate its contract with Plaintiffs by denying coverage or indemnification.View "Woodle v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Rodehorst Brothers, a partnership, applied for several building permits for its apartment building. A building inspector granted the first two permits but denied the third, concluding that Rodehorst had forfeited its right to continue its nonconforming use of a fourplex in an area zoned R-2 for one- and two-family use. On appeal, the city’s Board of Adjustment determined (1) Rodehorst had forfeited its right to continue its nonconforming use by not having more than two apartments occupied for more than one year, and (2) the Board lacked authority to grant a use variance to otherwise allow the use to continue. The district court affirmed, concluding that the Board did not err in its judgment and that the Board’s ruling was not an unconstitutional taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the record showed that Rodehorst discontinued the noncomforming use for one year, it forfeited its right to continue the use; (2) the Board lacked authority to grant a use variance; and (3) there was no taking of Rodehorst’s property. View "Rodehorst Bros. v. City of Norfolk Bd. of Adjustment" on Justia Law